Cabell, Benjamin Elias (1858–1931)

By: Kristi Nedderman

Type: Biography

Published: June 10, 2020

Benjamin Elias Cabell, twenty-seventh mayor of Dallas, Texas, was born on November 18, 1858, to William Lewis Cabell and Harriette Amanda (Rector) Cabell in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Cabell moved to Dallas, Texas, with his family in 1872. He worked for John S. Leachman’s Singer sewing machine office until school began at Rock College on Cantegral Street. When not in school, he also worked for the Dallas Flouring Mill Company.

In 1878, when the Leadville, Colorado, mines were discovered to contain silver, Cabell and other Dallasites headed out to earn their fortunes. He spent time in both Colorado and California before returning to Dallas in 1884 when he founded a livery business. In 1885 his father, who was serving as U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Texas, appointed his son as a deputy of the United States. Cabell left Dallas again, this time for Indian Territory (Oklahoma). He served in this role for four years. In 1892 Ben Cabell was elected Dallas County sheriff, a position he held for eight years.

On May 21, 1893, while Cabell was sheriff, the H. A. Harvey, Jr., a 113-foot steamboat, made its way up the Trinity River and finally to Dallas after leaving Galveston two months and ten days prior. This event was cause for a giant celebration, including a parade. Sheriff Cabell was one of the six people who constituted Grand Marshal Charles F. Bolanz’s staff for the parade.

Cabell married Sarah “Sadie” Earle Pearre, daughter of Judge Charles Baer Pearre and Harriet Kelly (Earle) Pearre, on November 26, 1896, in Waco. They had four children: William Lewis II (died at birth), Benjamin Jr., Charles Pearre, and Earle. Earle, with brother Ben, formed Cabell’s Inc., an ice cream company, and later became the forty-eighth mayor of Dallas.

In 1900, when the U.S. census showed Dallas having 42,638 citizens, Cabell won the mayoral race over opponent Bryan T. Barry by a margin of approximately 2,500 votes. His father previously had served three terms as mayor. The town of Oak Cliff was a significant topic during his administration. Discussions by the citizens of both the cities of Oak Cliff and Dallas surrounding the possible annexation of Oak Cliff by Dallas began in the 1890s. A vote in Oak Cliff finally occurred in 1900 with its citizens rejecting annexation, allegedly because of a Dallas ordinance requiring that cows be kept off city streets at all times. Oak Cliff preferred its own law, which required only that cows be penned up at night. On March 17, 1903, however, Oak Cliff residents relented and voted 201 to 183 in favor of annexation. Three weeks later, on April 10, 1903, Cabell approved the ordinance bringing Oak Cliff into the Dallas city limits and welcomed almost 4,000 new citizens as Dallasites. Another significant change for Dallas during Cabell’s administration was the improvement and expansion of water and sewage services, specifically, the construction of Bachman dam in 1903.

After his term as mayor, Cabell continued his public service. He was president of the Texas Sheriffs’ Association, held multiple offices with the State Fair of Texas, was chair of the State Penitentiary Board, and was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Knights of Pythias, the Dallas Democratic Club, the Knights of Honor, the Elks, and the Woodmen of the World.

Sadie Cabell died on June 16, 1921, in San Diego, California. She was returned to Dallas and buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Ben E. Cabell died on February 8, 1931, while visiting his son Lt. Charles Pearre Cabell in San Antonio, Texas. He was interred at Greenwood Cemetery next to his wife.

City of Dallas, City Secretary's Office, History of Mayors and City Councils 1866–Present (Dallas, Texas: City of Dallas, n.d.). City of Dallas, City Secretary's Office, Ordinance Book, Vol. 12. Dallas, April 4, 1903. Howard J. Cox, “Dallas Dairies,” Legacies 21 (Fall 2009). Dallas Daily Times Herald, May 22, 1893. Dallas Morning News, April 3, 4, 1900; February 9, 1931. Patricia Evridge Hill,  Dallas: The Making of a Modern City (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1996). Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County (Chicago: Lewis, 1892; rpt., Dallas: Walsworth, 1976).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Sheriffs
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kristi Nedderman, “Cabell, Benjamin Elias,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

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June 10, 2020

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